(CNN Spanish) — The disappearance of Madeleine McCann is a mystery that has been unanswered for 15 years. This Thursday, prosecutors in Faro, in the Algarve, Portugal, said that a suspect had been formally identified, although no further information had yet been released.
This is what you should know about the case that still causes shock around the world:
The disappearance of Madeleine McCann
- Madeleine McCann was 3 years old when she disappeared from her family’s vacation apartment in the picturesque Portuguese town of Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3, 2007.
- Her parents were having dinner with friends just 60 meters away from the apartment where the girl was supposed to sleep with her twin brothers.
- Around 10 pm that night, Kate McCann, the girl’s mother, went to check on the children and discovered that Madeleine was not in the apartment. The bedroom window was open.
the desperate search
- The case had a great impact worldwide, mainly due to the huge publicity campaign carried out by the girl’s parents to try to find Madeleine’s whereabouts.
- The girl’s parents traveled to several countries to promote the search for their daughter. They even met with then-Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.
- Some 600 people were tested during the investigation.
- Four people were considered suspects and later acquitted.
- A hefty reward was offered for information on the girl’s whereabouts, including contributions from “Harry Potter” author JK Rowling, pop mogul Simon Cowell and businessman Richard Branson. Soccer players like David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo also asked for help to locate the missing girl.
investigations and court cases
- In September 2007, Portuguese police named Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine’s parents, as suspects in their daughter’s disappearance, after suspicious DNA was found in a car the family rented 25 days after reporting her disappearance. They denied all the accusations and eventually the case against them was closed.
- Madeleine’s parents received $1.1 million in libel damages and obtained apologies from various media outlets for their coverage of the case.
- Subsequently, the Portuguese authorities handed over all their files to private investigators hired by Madeleine’s parents, who continued to follow possible leads.
- In May 2011, the girl’s parents published a book called “Madeleine” about the search for their daughter.
- In July 2011, information about a girl from India who would appear to be the missing Madeleine caused a stir on social media. But the data was later discarded, like so many other reports of possible “appearances” of the girl in different parts of the world.
- Also in 2011, the case was taken over by the London Metropolitan Police. Among other measures, the British authorities opened new investigations into crimes that occurred near the holiday resort.
- The large-scale investigation was known as Operation Grange and, between 2019 and 2020, had cost at least £11.75 million (US$14.7).
- In October 2013, the British police published new police sketches of possible suspects in the case. In this sense, new lines of investigation were opened, all related to a series of robberies at the resort where the girl disappeared.
- In March 2014, British investigators said they were on the trail of a man who assaulted young British women while on holiday in Portugal, in the years before and after McCann’s disappearance.
The unindicted German suspect
- One of the most important milestones in the investigation occurred in June 2020, when British and German authorities announced that they had identified a 43-year-old German citizen as a suspect in the case.
- Hans Christian Walters, state prosecutor for Brauwschweig, said the suspect was being investigated for homicide. “With this you can see that we assume that the girl is dead,” he said in a press conference published on video by CNN.
- The suspect they were referencing was convicted drug trafficker and child molester Christian B.
- But B. was not charged with any crime related to the disappearance. He is behind bars in Germany for raping a woman in the same area of the Algarve region where Madeleine disappeared in 2007. B. has denied involvement in McCann’s disappearance.
The official suspect
- On April 22, 2022, Portuguese prosecutors said a man was formally identified as a suspect in the disappearance. Prosecutors in Faro, the main city in the Algarve, did not publicly name the man, but said in a statement that German authorities identified him as a suspect at their request.
This report was made with information from Bryony Jones, Zamira Rahim, Fred Pleitgen, Mia Alberti, Milena Veselinovic, Isa Soares, Drew Kann, Reuters.